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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The English Hexapla on the PA

Here are the key pages from the monumental English Hexapla (1841):

Click to Enlarge: Backbutton to Return

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trollope's Cogent stance on PA

Turning to William Trollope's Analecta Theologica (1842 2nd ed.) Vol. 2, p. 87, we find the following breath of fresh air:
"The narrative of the Woman taken in Adultery, contained in the opening of this chapter [ch.8], together with the last verse of ch. 7, are wanting in a great number of the best MSS. [1]  Many of those also, which retain the passage, mark it with obelisks, as an indication of supposed spuriousness; [2] and it exhibits a greater variety of readings than any other portion of the Scriptures whatsoever. [3]  In some copies [family 1, 10th cent.] it is found at the end of the Gospel; in others, elsewhere[late copies], and in others, again, at the end of Luke 21 [fam. 13, 10th cent.]; Origen, Chrysostom, and Theophylact have taken no notice of it in their commentaries; [4]  and it is first explained by Euthymius, a writer of the 12th century. [5]  Many of the older versions are without it; [6]  and several of the ablest critics have rejected it as spurious. [7]   

Now Papias, in a fragment cited by Eusebius, relates a tradition respecting a woman who was accused of many crimes before our Lord, which was taken from the Apocryphal Gospel of the Nazarenes;  and it has been thought that this was the legend in question, which has by some means found its way into the narrative of St. John.   Others have thought that the incident is the relation of a real fact; but that it is one of those events in our Lord's ministry which were not inserted, for want of room, in any of the four canonical Gospels, though they were long preserved in the Church by oral tradition.   (See Luke 1:1, John 20:30).
Several of these histories were recorded in the margins of early copies, so that some of them at length obtained a place in the text; and it may not be impossible, from the remarkable variations in the MSS, that the preservation of this story is to be thus accounted for.  (See on Matt. 20:28, Luke 6:1). 

The weight of the evidence however, both internal and external, unquestionably preponderates in favour of its authenticity.  The majority of MSS are considerably on its side; and its absence from those in which it does not appear, is traced by Augustine (de Adult. Conjug. II.3) to a scrupulous fear, that the ignorant might be thereby induced to think lightly of the sin of adultery. 
At the same time it is sufficiently evident, why Jesus thought proper to evade the question of the Scribes.  A snare was laid for him similar to that which lurked in the insidious question respecting the tribute-money in Matt. 22:17.  Had he countenanced the punishment of the woman, they would have accused him to the Romans of invading their judicial authority; and had he, on the other hand, referred them to the pro-consular tribunal, they would have held him up to popular hatred., as sanctioning an infringement of their liberties and rights.  That he did not palliate the atrocity of the offence is evident from the caution with which he finally dismissed her.  pro- Whitby, Lightfoot, Mill, A. Clarke, Michaelis, Kuinoel, Doddridge, &c. (con - Grotius, Beza, Le Clerc, Wetstein, Tittman, &c.)  See also Horne's Introd. Vol. IV. p. 315. 
Trollope is to be appreciated for his insight into the reality behind the textual evidence, especially given the spotty knowledge available in his time, and the primitive state of textual criticism as a 'science'.   The following modern footnotes clarify what was missing from view for Trollope and his contemporaries, but which is readily known to us today:

1.  The final count of extant MSS missing the passage is actually quite small.  Some 1,350 MSS do have it, while only a few dozen have left it out.

2.  From the thorough research of Dr. M. Robinson and others, it is now clear that all manuscripts containing such marks (obelisks, asterisks, archus and telos) are in fact very late.  There are no early manuscripts containing the passage with such marks.   The only early manuscript with a special mark, Codex B (4th cent.) does not actually have the passage, and there is some doubt as to whether this mark (a double horizontal dot, an 'umlaut') refers to the passage, or a textual problem in the preceding verse.

3.  The alleged great number of variants in this passage is at best a guess, and no similar passage of John has ever been collated for comparison. (See our previous post on this).   In any case, variants are an indication of copying errors subsequent to the existance of a passage, and have no bearing on authenticity.

4.  Its now known that the early commentaries, specifically prepared for public reading in church services, don't comment on any passages which are not actually read to the congregation first during the service.  Many passages were never publicly read during services, for instance the book of Revelation.

5.  We now know that Didymus (c. 350 A.D.), an early popular Greek commentator, also cited this passage when commenting upon another O.T. passage.   This disproves the theory that the passage was unknown and unquoted until the time of Euthymius (12th cent.).

6.  Several of the ancient translations (e.g., Syriac, Coptic, Armenian) were not strictly continuous-text copies, but were ecclesiastical copies prepared for liturgical church worship.  These versions follow early 'lectionary' practices, and exclude passages not read publicly in services. 

7.   Here Trollope, writing in 1840s, is referring to early critics and commentators, such as Wetstein and Grotius.  Many of these people were anti-supernatural rationalists and skeptics, with heterodox doctrinal beliefs, and paranoid attitudes spawned from the violent and controntational early Reformation environment.   Wetstein for instance, rejected all ancient Uncials, because he believed they were laced with "Latin" interpolations.   Lachmann wrongly imagined that the traditional text (TR) originated in the late Middle Ages!  Griesbach naively embraced the belief that older manuscripts were more accurate, because he did not fully comprehend the many independent lines of transmission in the Christian period.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Plummer (1886): 80 variants in 12 verses? not likely

Plummer also wrote for the ICC series

In Alfred Plummer's commentary, The Gospel Acc. to St John (London, 1880-1892), p. 175 fwd, he makes the following incredible remark:
"The extraordinary number of various readings (80 in 183 words) points to more than one source."
  Here are Nazaroo's comments on the problematic statement:

Plummer's statement here remains extraordinary and unverifiable even today. By 'various readings', he must mean alternate readings, not variation units (places in text).
But the number itself would only be 'extraordinary' if we could compare it to collations in other places of the text, which have never been done. The Pericope Adulterae (Jn 7:53-8:11) has been extensively collated; initially by Tischendorf (1870), then more thoroughly by von Soden (1911), and finally exhaustively by Dr. Maurice Robinson (2000).
However, no other portion of the Gospels has been collated in all extant MSS, like the PA has. So we have no similar portion of text to compare to.
The number 80 is at any rate inaccurate.1 The method Plummer used to get this number is unknown, but it may simply be something gleaned from the Prolegomena of Tischendorf's 8th ed. GNT, ghost-written by Gregory, Davidson, Tregelles, and of dubious accuracy. If it includes all the quirks of Codex Bezae, these have not similarly been so thoroughly catalogued in any known GNT apparatus anywhere else in John.
Most remarkable of all, is Plummer's unique conclusion that this variant count implies "more than one source". Can he simply mean more than one source for the variants, or more than one source for the PA itself? We can never know at this point what Plummer had in mind. His statement here is worthless.

1. It turns out a similar statement is found 15 years earlier in Godet (1865):
"Besides, there is an extraordinary variation in the text in the documents which present this passage; 60 variants are counted in these twelve verses."
Note that the number is lower by ten. It is unlikely that any special collations were done between 1865 and 1880 when Plummer published. The similar numbers seem to indicate that he has simply mis-read Godet's "60" as "80", and although Plummer went through a dozen editions from 1880 to 1904, this was never corrected. 

The actual problem of accurately counting variant readings for a verse or passage is an ever-retreating mirage, and an unsolvable problem in mathematical terminology.  The more that manuscripts are copied, the more the errors will accumulate.  The more manuscripts we collate, the more variants we collect.  The actual variants for any passage or portion of scripture is a complete unknown, even if we only consider "extant" (surviving) copies.  

Such minute and exact collating has never been done, nor can it be.   Even with the more modest goal of 'surviving MSS', we cannot do it, because a large number of manuscripts remain in private hands are unavailable and unreported.  These documents are often priceless family heirlooms and the owners are completely uncooperative in even revealing their existance.


Friday, June 10, 2011

19th cent. confusion over Jn 7:53-8:11

C. K. Barrett's popular but brief introduction to the New Testament for students, Companion to the Greek Testament  , (1867) para. 24, gives the following brief sketch:

"b. The story of the woman taken in adultery, contained in John vii. 53—viii. 11, is rejected as spurious by many.

It is not found in some of the best MSS, including א, A, B, C, (A and C are deficient in this part of the N. T., but from the space which is wanting it is clear that they did not contain the passage); in several of the MSS in which it is found it is marked with asterisks or obeli; in some it is placed at the end of John, and in others at the end of Luke xxi. It is omitted in some MSS of the Old Latin, the Peschito, and some other versions; it is not quoted in any extant writing of the second century, and appears to have been either unknown to, or rejected by Origen, Tertullian, and Cyprian. It differs in style from the rest of the Gospel; ο λαος is used instead of ο οχλος, εις after  πορευομαι and rapaylvofiai, and δε to connect two sentences instead of ουν.

On the other hand, it is found in D, some of the later uncials, many cursives, several MSS of the old Latin, the Vulgate, and some other versions; and it is quoted in the 4th century by Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine.

The general opinion is, that the passage was not in St. John's written Gospel, and is not therefore a part of canonical Scripture; but that the history is nevertheless a true one, derived (perhaps through a narrative of Papias, mentioned by Eusebius,) from the oral teaching of the Apostle himself."

It is not however the brevity, but the inaccuracy of Barrett's statement which misleads a whole generation of students:

 a)  No real quantitative survey of opinion was done.  In fact, in the mid-1800s most scholars still held that the passage was genuine.  The "rejected as spurious by many." misleads the reader as to relative numbers of scholars. 

b)  The markings "asterisks or obelii" are not explained.  Subsequent investigations by Dr. Maurice Robinson (who personally examined every manuscript containing the PA) have shown that the markings are ecclesiastical instructions and are all very late.  There are no early manuscripts which mark the passage with such signs.

c)  The late date of manuscripts which misplace the passage is not indicated. In fact, all of them are later than the 10th century, and most are later than the 12th.  They are not relevant to the early history of the text.

d)  The omission of the PA in some ecclesiastical manuscripts, such as the Old Latin and Syriac, points to the church's avoidance in reading the passage out in public during services.  In fact, many passages of the NT are never read in church, nor are they found in the Lectionary system (selected passages for services).
e)  The lack of commentary for the PA in the ancient commentaries is traceable to the same cause.  The commentaries were designed for church services.  Commentators such as Origen could not comment on passages which were not actually read out in public services. 

f)  The fact that the passage  "appears to have been either unknown to, or rejected by Origen, Tertullian, and Cyprian" shows the uncertainty of interpreting "arguments from silence".   There is no evidence at all that these early writers actually rejected the verses.  Origen naturally passes over the passage in his commentary (although this is apparently hasn't even survived, and what we know of it comes from a later table of contents!).  Tertullian on the other hand, actually does provide some rather suspicious evidence of his own knowledge of the passage.  In Cyprian's time the passage was already well-known to other writers, so his omission is not surprising or relevant.

g)  Both  Jerome   and Augustine provide important information about the state of the text in their time, and heretical movements which were actively editing the text.  This information is crucial to understanding what really happened in the 4th century regarding the PA.  

h)  Barrett's "general opinion" is in fact only a popular opinion held among Protestant Unitarians and historical-critical investigators in Germany and England.  Many other scholars had other opinions, both on the passage, and on Unitarianism and Rationalist approaches to Holy Scripture. 

i)  The theory that the story originates in Papias and migrated into John's gospel is only a conjecture, and a dubious one at that.

j)  Internal Linguistic evidence regarding the PA has been examined in detail here:   
Why 'δε' is irrelevant in John - more claims implode
'ει μη' in John 8:1-11 - NOT a stylistic marker
k)  The whole approach of analyzing vocabulary has been invalidated by R. Heard (1950)